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Why it matters how much you drink

publication date: Dec 13, 2011
author/source: Kerry Torrens
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With the Christmas party season already in full swing it’s all too easy to find ourselves drinking well over our normal amount night after night. 'And why not?' you may well feel. 'It’s just for a short period so it can’t do much harm providing I'm not driving. If I don’t feel the effects the next day what’s the problem?'

Well, for a start you can put yourself in an embarrassing position or, worse still, in physical danger. Alcohol affects your ability to think and perform even simple tasks. Its action on the brain may lead us to misjudge situations and impairs memory which is thought to explain why some people can’t remember what happened during a heavy night of drinking.

Less well known however is the damaging effect alcohol can have on the body’s ability to function healthily. Alcohol is what is known as an “anti-nutrient” depleting the body of valuable nutrients including folic acid, the B group of vitamins, vitamin A, C and D and important bone building nutrients such as calcium. Regular and consistent consumption may impact the nervous system, your immunity, long term bone health and even the regularity of your menstrual cycle.

Drinking regularly is also a common cause of weight gain with a glass of wine contributing about 125 calories and a bottle of beer 150 calories. Combine that with the lack of resolve and associated blood sugar swings which can lead to an attack of the munchies and you see how easily you can pile on the pounds.

One other thing you may not realise is how much individual drinks vary in alcohol content. Many cocktails taste like fruit juice yet can pack a heavy punch that takes them way over the 2-3 units maximum per day recommended by most medical authorities. A small (125ml) glass of low alcohol (9%) wine counts as 1 unit but many wines are now much higher in alcohol than that and served in much bigger glasses. A 175ml glass of a 14.5% full-bodied red for example is already over 2.5 units. If you want to work out how many units your favourite drink is you can calculate it here

So, killjoys though we might sound sound, it really is worth trying to limit the amount you drink over the next couple of weeks. Just take some simple precautions:

  • Before you go out have a bowl of high fibre cereal, a yogurt smoothie with ground nuts and seeds or a couple of pieces of granary toast with nut butter
  • Drink water between alcoholic drinks or dilute wine and spirits with sparkling water
  • Say no to top ups – don’t take a refill until you have finished the glass you have, otherwise you can easily lose track of how much you’re drinking
  • Avoid salty snacks such as crisps or salted nuts because these make you thirstier and likely to drink more
  • Choose a drink with a lower alcohol content - a dry white like pinot grigio or a light rosé rather than a full-bodied red
  • And if you do have a heavy night give yourself at least 48 hours without alcohol to allow your body to recover.

For more information on safe drinking limits click on the following links


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